Lake Placid’s Whiteface Lodge hit me like a swank Colorado resort, but then I sat back, beheld the ancient Adirondack Mountains from an outdoor jacuzzi after dining on some choice venison, and realized that I’d arrived in paradise via a painless flash from NYC, door-to-door via Amtrak.
My introduction to this woody otherworld was the lodge’s grand restaurant. KANU’s (canoe) 500-strong wine list is difficult to focus on, as your eyes are drawn up to the 35-foot-high pitched rustic-timber ceiling’s skylight while stoic, gargantuan wildlife busts, bobcats and deer, five steely chandeliers, and a dangling canoe come to life and snatch the mood. Dueling 25-foot-high immense fireplace hearths with split-log mantles prolonged my daydream until the sumptuous local venison and bottom longline-caught Pacific cod scampi arrive from the open kitchen.
North American native game and fish bring the Adirondack-inspired American menu to life as couples, families and outdoor enthusiasts from every sector fuse. KANU offers diners an extensive menu of a la carte options as well as three- or four-course wine pairings. An open kitchen showcases the culinary team as they prepare dishes featuring items sourced from local farms. After a signature bark-eater (Native American word for deer) ice cream sandwich, I ambled across the restaurant’s huge limestone tiles and headed to my suite.
In a classic Adirondack family camp lodge upgraded to meet any relaxed luxury standard, the rooms range from 700 to 2,300 square feet and from one to three bedrooms. My ultra-comfortable deluxe suite nailed rustic elegance. The windows in both rooms view the courtyard, outdoor pool and two jacuzzis. The welcoming living room/fireplace area connects to a full kitchen. The cozy bedroom is an ultra-quiet sleeping zone upon a top-notch bed; you can also snooze on your front porch. Also included: heated bathroom and kitchen floors, a washer-and-dryer, and a big wooden dinner table. Why can’t this be my house?
The v-shaped wood castle fronts the courtyard and activities center, which double as conference and wedding spaces. Few vacationlands do four seasons better than the Adirondacks. On-site activities include the award-winning Spa at Whiteface Lodge, where I enjoyed a patient, slowly executed deep-tissue massage. Their campus also has a skating rink, basketball hoop, tennis courts, snowshoe and cross-country ski trails, and a catch-and-release pond.
A rainy day won’t get you down here. The daily announcement sheet has updates on KANU Lounge (inviting bar and comfy seating) specials and live entertainment, yoga and circuit training classes, and feature movies in the 56-seat surround-sound Trail Side Theater. The bowling alley, game room and gym also await. Also popular with Canadian invaders, inside and out, this getaway brings people together-but you can also hide away.
And if you came carless like I did, there is great hiking right outside the lodge’s front door. Turn left outside main entrance and follow the road to the country club on the right, head in for a mile, and locate the Jackrabbit Trail that eventually rims Lake Placid and links to other trails, including a route to Saranac Lake.
The staff is a mix of gracious locals and full-time green-seekers. The lodge has free shuttle service into the Village of Lake Placid daily from 9 am-6 pm.
Visit Whiteface Lodge to land here-Amtrak can deliver you door-to-door via a half-hour shuttle from its Westport station. And check out LakePlacid.com for further inspiration. Lake Placid’s buzzing “downtown” is less than two-miles away. A convenient shopping center, though a world away, is only a short walk from the lodge. Also visit the Whiteface Lake Placid website and consider an Olympic Sites Passport, which includes the Olympic Center, Museum, Sports Complex, Jumping Complex, and the Whiteface Mountain gondola ride (and disc golf course).
What to do in Lake Placid
Lake Placid has dozens of interesting dining opportunities, and one of my favorites is the Brown Dog Café. Its inviting Main Street pedestrian-view bar and cozy seating area only hint at what lies beyond; six large Euro-themed booths give way to the restaurant perched 30-feet over Mirror Lake. Basic but dressed up, this labor of love is as far from cookie-cutter as you can get. Plus, all of the local and vintage art and super dandy array of Francophile knickknacks hanging on or from everything are all also for sale. The full spectrum wine list gave way to the French menu’s ultimate lobster bisque and Pan Roasted Maine Day Boat Scallops (add white truffle asparagus puree and Meyer lemon risotto). You’ll be hard-pressed to find such ultra-rich and nuanced seasonings and sauces elsewhere in the area.
The oldest-school and most high-end place to dine here is The View at Mirror Lake Inn. Comfortably just off the strip and overlooking the lake, this charming and peaceful outtake harkens to simpler times before cell phones (they are actually forbidden). Formalish but not stuffy, the implausibly large drink menu bounces from scotch flights to vintage ports to a “Wayward Hiker” cocktail. The crabcake with saffron-pickled fennel and the prosciutto-wrapped and pan-roasted cod fillet (vermouth cream, poached oysters, fingerling potatoes, rainbow chard, baby fennel) did not disappoint. The last time I experienced this country-club-by-the-lake setting, I was with my 11-year-old daughter, who chastised my outfit. This time I was in date mode-and the girlfriend saw to censuring everything else.